Why the government of Trinidad and Tobago shut down the debate?

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Attorney General, Faris Al-Rawi

Dear Sir:

The government’s bewildering actions to shut down and adjourn Wednesday, February 12, debate on the critical adoption of the Joint Select Committee Report on the Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters Bill, the Tax Information Exchange Agreements Bill, and the Income Tax (Amendment) Bill were not only contrary to their claims of the urgency needed to pass these bills but rather ironic given that the opposition had clear intentions to support these pieces of legislation.

It must be noted that since its parliamentary caucus on Monday, all members of the opposition within both houses of parliament came to the consensus that we would be supporting the adoption of the report produced by this aforementioned Joint Select Committee. This consensus came as no surprise and was cemented in the fact that our members of the committee did not submit any minority report to dissent or protest any part of the report.

The act of not submitting a minority report was a clear indicator that not only was the opposition prepared to act in the national interest but it would have paved the way for productive debate, one which would have aired holistic views but ended with a positive outcome for our nation.

Despite the disingenuous manner in which the government operated at yesterday’s debate, preventing our third speaker, Dr Tewarie from contributing to the debate as the minister of finance chose to conclude the debate as he stood to speak, we were always going to support this legislation.

As a matter of fact, as opposition chief whip, when I realized that the government was adjourning the debate, I urged the government Bench from across the aisle to “take the vote”. To our disbelief, they adjourned the House of Representatives for the next two weeks.

Our approach at yesterday’s debate was never to play politics but we also had a duty to highlight the fact that despite this government’s rants on the urgency of passing this legislation it is they who prolonged the completion of work at the JSC Level for over two years. We had a duty to inform the government that our compliance could have been improved if they had been more proactive as they have been in office for over four and a half years controlling both the legislature as well as executive.

Today our population must take full notice that our non-compliance and presence on the blacklist falls squarely on this government as it is they who lacked the political will to go forward with passing the legislation.

One would hope that it is not a case of them sacrificing our nation’s financial stability as they consistently warned in an effort to spurn a false narrative to earn political points in an election year.

The position of the opposition is very clear, whenever they bring this report back to parliament, we will be supporting as was our initial position.

David Lee

Member of Parliament, Point-a-Pierre

Deputy Political Leader, United National Congress (UNC) and Opposition Chief Whip

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